• East Coast Express Part 1 London to Peterborough

    East Coast Magic

    By Jane-Rachel Whittaker (2 March 2006)

    It was with distinct mixed feelings that I installed "East Coast Express Part 1 London to Peterborough". This product, published by First Class Simulations and developed by EuropeanBahn has been eagerly awaited by many MSTS fans. The East Coast Main Line of the UK is close to the hearts of most rail enthusiasts in Britain, being steeped in history. For myself the association with the East Coast Main Line is doubly poignant having spent a large portion of my life making the daily commute from London Kings Cross to Peterborough on the very tracks that have been modelled in addition to being an enthusiast with little hope of treatment or redemption. I was torn by the thrill of having this route that has shared a large portion of my life being realised in MSTS that was also tempered with an anxiety over a route with such personal significance as to whether the simulation would live up to the sentiment.

           

    There was nothing for it but to jump in the cab of a Class 43 high speed train at London Kings Cross and make my way north to Peterborough. The Class 43 more commonly known as an "Intercity 125" has been plying its trade along the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh since the late 1970s. I had the dual fortune of both visiting Crewe Locomotive Works in Cheshire to see these locomotives on the production line in the year of their introduction and also the great privilege to be a passenger on the first Intercity 125 service from Edinburgh to London traversing this very same route into London. I admit to always being disappointed in previous representations of this iconic locomotive in MSTS, which have always seemed boxy and poorly represented. With limited expectations I was entirely bowled over by the quality of the modelling and had to immediately reappraise my views of the Intercity 125 within MSTS. The modelling within the package is simply staggering and is close to perfection both in the physical modelling and the texturing of power cars and coaching stock to the point where I often had to give myself a reality check that I was not looking at a video. I was starting to get excited like a child on a birthday and I had not left London Kings Cross.

           

    The cab too is an excellent representation of the real powercar and having ridden in the cab many times out of Kings Cross it was with a sense of deja vu and growing anticipation that I gently eased the train away from the station into Gas Works Tunnel and accelerated through Alexandra Palace and northbound towards Peterborough. In many route expansions for MSTS I had been disappointed to see generic stations and trackside scenery as a poor substitute for their real-life equivalents. This simulation bucks that trend as many familiar landmarks and stations stretched out before me. Accelerating past the now disused engine sheds at Finsbury Park, where I had mis-spent a large portion of my youth in what was then a thriving locomotive depot and passing by Bounds Green depot, home to this high speed train, everything was there in exact detail. All the small commuter stations and larger mainline stations on the route have been built with accurate architecture to the smallest detail such as placement of overhead footbridges.

    As I sped north I was able to reflect on the historical significance of this route that had been the jewel in the crown of the London And North Eastern Railway (LNER) in the heyday of steam. The LNER "Flying Scotsman" included as a default locomotive within MSTS actually operated this route in service and was one of a fleet of "A4 Pacifics", designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, that operated the Flying Scotsman service from London to Edinburgh. With the release of this route I am finally able to place this magnificent locomotive on the tracks that it calls home. These tracks were also home to a Gresley stable-mate, the "Mallard" which broke the world speed record on the East Coast Main Line achieving 126MPH, in what still stands today as the fastest recorded speed ever for steam traction anywhere in the world!

           

    As steam gave way to the relentless march of progress and was superseded in the 1960s by diesel the East Coast Main Line played host to the illustrious Class 55 Deltic locomotives which were tasked to haul the crack expresses. The Deltics themselves are the stuff of legend and are often regarded as the most popular diesel locomotive in the world even though only 22 were ever built and entered service. Such is their popularity that the prototype has a place of honour in the Science Museum in London and another example of the class is displayed proudly at the National Railway Museum in York. Their popularity certainly seems to have stretched to MSTS judging by their frequent appearance in expansion packs and file libraries and akin to the Flying Scotsman these locomotives can now take their rightful place on the East Coast Main Line. In the early 1980s these locomotives were themselves replaced by the Intercity 125 equipment featured in this package.

           

    A massive refurbishment program in the 1980s led to the electrification of the line and I have vivid memories of watching the cable spun mile by mile steadily southward and standing on the platform at Kings Cross to watch the first electric service arrive from Peterborough. Rapidly after electrification the diesel multiple units were replaced by electric multiple units and the Class 317 EMU synonymous with commuter services on this route has been thoughtfully included in the package, along with a generous selection of activities. Perhaps, however, most purchasers will be most tempted by the Intercity 125 and the newer electric Class 225 that has been included in this expansion, along with a raft of high speed and challenging activities to support their inclusion. Intercity liveries for both 125 and 225 sets are included along with liveries reflecting GNER, the Great North Eastern Railway who recently took over this route and rolling stock in the re-privatisation of the line. The developers point out in their manual that they had the assistance of GNER in producing these locomotives and it certainly shows!

    As I mused on reminiscences of the route North London quickly faded into the faceless suburbia of the satellite towns that evolved in post-war building programs. Passing through Welwyn Garden City station reminded me that these towns were often referred to as "garden cities" to evoke imagery of greenery to entice relocations out of London and its smog. I mentally crosschecked the layout and style of each station and its surroundings as the high speed train sped inexorably north and again was unable to find fault with the design work of this product from track layout, to lineside points of interest to architecture this was the East Coast Main Line that had been indelibly etched into my memory. My fears in relation to realism evaporated with the morning mist as the locomotive left London behind and headed through Stevenage and Huntingdon into the county of Cambridgeshire and ever closer to Peterborough.

           

    As I brought the train under the distinctive corrugated footbridge and to a stop on the platform in Peterborough I realised I had ridden the footplate on a journey of discovery through over 80 miles of the best that MSTS has to offer at the hands of a skilled developer. I eagerly await my return journey to London at the controls of a similarly impressively realised Class 225 rake with plans to try out one of the snowbound activities. Later this year will herald the arrival of Volume 2 of this East Coast Express set that I hope will bring the railway heaven of York and Doncaster to MSTS. I hope that no-one minds that I have pushed to the front of the queue to buy my ticket for that forthcoming journey! Until release I shall content myself with this package that leaves other MSTS expansions sat at the station. Platform 10 3/4 at Kings Cross is the departure point for Harry Potter and his friends as they board the Hogwarts Express which is quite fitting as this version of Kings Cross has brought a magical journey to my desktop.

    Publisher: First Class Simulations firstclass-simulations.com
    Developer: EuropeanBahn
    Requirements: Microsoft Train Simulator
    Price: £24.99

    Jane-Rachel Whittaker
    [email protected]

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